Editor's Note: With 2016 winding to a close, SoundersFC.com is taking a look back at the top 10 plays of the Seattle Sounders' 2016 season. We'll release the full list over the course of the week, with the final play being announced on Dec. 31. Take a look at the Honorable Mentions and the full list as it's released.
The Sounders will kick off the 2017 season on Saturday, March 4 against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Clint Dempsey’slong-range effort at No. 3 may have been the Seattle Sounders’ most impressive goal of the season, but none was more important than the one Nelson Valdez provided over eight months later.
Just consider the circumstances: The Sounders battled valiantly over the final third of the regular season to earn an improbable berth and the No. 4 seed in the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. In the Knockout Round, they hosted No. 5 Sporting Kansas City, a team which objectively outplayed Seattle throughout most of the match, but could not find a breakthrough on the score sheet.
Then, in the 88th minute, Valdez — Seattle’s Designated Player who did not score once in the regular season — finally delivered.
Joevin Jones drove the left side of the box and curled in a perfectly weighted cross to the near post. Valdez gained a half-step on SKC defender Kevin Ellis and headed it past goalkeeper Tim Melia for the late lead. The Sounders would hang on over the final few minutes of stoppage time to escape to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Valdez’s timely heroics will go down as one of the defining plays of Seattle’s run to its first MLS Cup title.